Lion’s final roar

A FREAK motorcycle accident nearly 80 years ago sparked a family connection to Holden that endures, even as the iconic badge with its stone-rolling lion is retired.

After last week’s story about Holden tragic Gino Tagliaferri’s sadness over General Motors’ decision to kill off the Aussie car brand, and his pride in his beautiful FX (once owned by Australia’s last-surviving WW I Anzac), Mark Jennings got in touch to let us know Gino’s not the only one still in mourning.

“I am not afraid to say I shed a tear when they said they wouldn’t make Holdens in Australia any more,” Mr Jennings said.

“That was a few years back, but now to say they won’t make any more at all, it’s very sad.”

• A plaque made to commemorate buying one of the last Commodores built in Australia

The Jennings family’s love of the Holden stretches back to World War II and came about, literally, by accident.

His grandfather Bert Ashman was enlisted in the army, but one night while riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle home from his barracks a drunk driver ran him off the road and into a barbed wire fence.

The accident tore the toes from one of his feet.

Mr Jennings said that his grandfather was deemed unsuitable for a combat position any more, so the army “manpowered” him to the General Motors factory in Mosman Park – where Iona Primary School now stands on Buckland Hill.

6.2 litre

The plant was important for producing boats and planes for the war effort, as well as great numbers of pontoons.

Semi-finished Holdens were also shipped from Adelaide to Mosman Park where workers would add front-end mechanicals, the engine, gearbox and panels before rolling the completed car off the production line.

Mr Ashman worked at the plant for the next 27 years, rising to be foreman.

• Mark Jennings’ kids with his mum and the Kingswood his grandfather built (right).

Mr Jennings said his grandfather picked his first Holden while it was still on the production line, putting it through the paint booth twice and giving him the rare honour of driving a Kingswood he helped build himself.

“When he retired he was given a spare motor. I remember he had this big crate and I kept asking him what it was and he’d say ‘you’ll see one day’,” Mr Jennings said.

On Mr Jennings’ 18th birthday the crate was cracked open and he got to see his grandfather install the new motor. 

Following Mr Ashman’s death it was the only thing other than a new cassette radio which had been altered on the Kingswood, which was later sold.

But the family’s love of Holden remained undiminished and Mr Jennings said they’re all he’s ever owned.

His current model is a Commodore VF Series 2 – the last series to be manufactured in Australia.

He’s so proud of the 6-speed, 6.2-litre V8 (in 679F heron white) he had a plaque made with a proud reference to Mr Ashman: “Holden the Car My Grandfather Built” is inscribed on the bottom, and he reckons one day when he’s got grandkids, one of them will get to inherit his beast.

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